Last week, soon-to-be president Joe Biden unveiled a comprehensive new bill in battling coronavirus. The plan includes 1.9T in immediate healthcare relief, and will be followed by a more expansive package. While this is not the first plan Biden has proposed for his presidency, it will certainly be some of the most crucial legislation as he aims to mitigate the effects of Covid-19 by spring. The success of this bill could also potentially set the tone for the rest of the Biden administration as they face what could quite possibly be one of the biggest challenges Biden enters office with.
The proposal (also called the American Rescue Plan) can be divided into three distinct categories, including action against the virus through free vaccinations and more school reopening, direct economic relief to citizens through higher stimulus checks and other forms of welfare, and aid for small businesses. Schools would receive $170B and state and local governments would receive $350B. The bill would also send $20B for vaccination programs, $50B for testing, and would continue the federal eviction and foreclosure moratoriums.
While most Democrats, like Nancy Pelosi, have expressed approval for the bill, more progressive Democrats, like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, have criticized the low stimulus checks. Right now, the stimulus checks are $1,400 so they add up to $2,000 with the Congressional checks from last month. The bill may also depend on the support of Republicans who already oppose the largely Democratic platforms pushed by the relief, like raising the minimum wage. Already, Republicans have spoken out against what they believe to be largely inefficient liberal policies for Covid relief. After the December Covid-19 relief plan, it seems Republicans like Rand Paul (R-KY) question a second large spending bill in the span of two months. Fortunately, Biden has secured some support from the GOP through Marco Rubio (R-FL).
The push for bipartisan support has never come at a more tenuous time. This month, the virus killed almost 4,000 people in the United States, and one million people filed for unemployment. Impeachment proceedings could also hinder the passage of the bill as the Senate focuses on any convictions for former president Donald Trump. Any disagreements that lead to the delay of relief of any form should be avoided at any cost. Fortunately, another asset for Biden’s plan is the 50-50 split of the Senate, which would make vice-president-elect Kamala Harris the tie-breaker vote.
While it seems the Biden administration will face hurdles gaining the nonpartisan support necessary for the American Rescue Plan to pass, a handful of GOP senators and some compromises may allow Americans to get some immediate relief. Biden has hit some snags on his first test, but with some hard work may be able to pass with flying colors.